When Madison resident Gerrit Burke, the owner and creator behind Sparrow Digital Media, thinks back to the pandemic, he says that he’ll always remember driving with his daughter for hours while searching out all of the coolest spots in north Alabama to fly his drone. He’ll remember the shared experience of taking her with him to photograph mountains and waterfalls and the coolest (and tallest) landmarks.
The pandemic will be the time period he puts his finger on when his passion for drone photography and videography was fully realized.
Drone Photography and Videography in Madison, Alabama
Burke, an engineer by day and creative by nights/weekends, grew up primarily in the Huntsville area and eventually moved to Madison in 2016 to plant roots with his wife Erin and daughter Evelyn. He stays busy as the Director of Engineering for Martin Federal and as a board member for Camp Maranatha on Lake Guntersville.
His involvement with the camp specifically is what first piqued his interest in flying his own drone.
“We wanted a do a video promo to highlight our summer program, so we paid a lot of money for someone to come out and do that,” explains Burke. “And though he did a really great job, it ate up the majority of our marketing budget for the year.”
He quickly began to scratch his head and wondered if there was a more cost-effective way to produce content like this. He’d been thinking about purchasing a drone anyway, so on a whim, he snagged his FAA certification, purchased a drone, and used it all summer long at Camp Maranatha.
Sparrow Digital Media
“I’ve been doing their social media for years, so this allowed us a really cool way to get new content,” he says.
Though Burke immensely enjoyed his new hobby of learning to capture footage with his drone, it took him a while to come around to the idea of pursuing it as a business venture. He says that the business side of the house – now known as Sparrow Digital Media – began evolving organically in 2019 when realtors and businesses began noticing his Instagram portfolio and inquired about hiring his services for their business needs.
The spring of 2020 is when Sparrow Digital Media really began heating up though.
“The pandemic made it so hard for businesses to connect with their customers. Stores were closed, events weren’t happening, and being online was the only way you could really connect with customers,” he says.
He began receiving a slew of requests from businesses throughout North Alabama who were looking for content that could help them connect quickly. And Sparrow Digital Media hasn’t slowed down since.
Burke was named a 2021 finalist for Entrepreneur of the Year, awarded by the Catalyst Center for Business. He has worked on significant projects with the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, including being a part of a documentary they created about the Pathfinder.
“They requested that I video some really specific damaged spots on the Pathfinder, but I didn’t know why at the time. Turns out, they put together a cool documentary about the Pathfinder and then gave me video credit at the end for my contributions.”
He says that as a kid that grew up in Huntsville, it was really cool to be a part of something like that.
Burke has also engaged in significant work with The Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce via the U.S. Paralympics Cycling event.
“I spent two days on-site flying around, meeting incredible athletes, and putting together a video that was really meaningful for the event itself, the athletes, but also for our community as a whole.”
He went on to explain that videos like this really help market our community for large events, and he says that being a part of work like that is a thrill for him.
The heartbeat of Sparrow Digital Media though, Burke says, is nonprofit projects.
“I know from my own experience of working with a nonprofit that they do not have substantial marketing budgets,” he explains. “I like to help people and take the content creation off of them.”
Burke says that his mission of working with nonprofits helps him feel like his work is really making an impact in areas where it matters most.
Burke also immensely enjoys bigger projects where he gets to sit down face-to-face and really hammer out what kind of messaging a business is looking to get out there. From there, Burke says that the creative process is actually quite simple.
“I like to sit down with my clients and figure out what they need, and then I’ll listen to their list of shots they really want too. From there, we’ll set a time to shoot the video! I’ll edit, send it to them, and that’s it!”
Burke says that he is now accepting new clients who are interested in increasing their messaging and exposure via drone videography or photography. He is able to work with businesses and non-profits of all kinds and of all sizes.
When asked what drives Burke to grow Sparrow Digital Media on the side, he says that it’s all about the creative element that he enjoys.
“It’s a creative spark that lets me tap into a different part of my brain,” he explains. He then quotes Mae Jemison, who he says sums up his dual interest in engineering and his drone perfectly.
By Mae Jemison: “The difference between science and the arts is not that they are different sides of the same coin even, or even different parts of the same continuum, but rather, they are manifestations of the same thing. The arts and sciences are avatars of human creativity.”
Gerrit Burke is FAA Part 107 certified which is a commercial certification that allows him to fly for commercial purposes. To reach out to Burke and discuss the option of hiring him for your needs, please reach out via Instagram direct message, email, or text/call. (Contact info is listed below.)
Quick Links for Sparrow Digital Media
Psst: Did you see the video that Burke created for All Things Madison’s 2nd birthday? We had so much fun shooting it; Our kids were pretty amazed by it all!